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Stadthaus: A Process Revealed

Waugh Thistleton’s Stadthaus, in Shoreditch, East London, is the tallest modern timber building in the world. A Process Revealed documents the building of this new nine storey apartment building whose construction holds a message for the future.

Publisher: FUEL, July 2009

Author Henrietta Thompson has collaborated with Waugh Thistleton Architects, engineers Techniker and timber suppliers KLH UK to produce a well documented narrative on the construction of Stadhaus.

The UK is in desperate need for sustainable, high density housing. For Thompson, timber could be the answer to the crisis. Timber absorbs carbon during its life and continues the storage when cut. As a result, Stadthaus stores over 186 tonnes of carbon, and by using timber rather than concrete for the building structure another 124 tonnes have been prevented from entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The book gets across the concept of speed of this method; in comparison to the 72 weeks for completion of a concrete framed building, Stadthaus took a mere 49 weeks to complete, with the timber structure erected over a nine week period.

Despite putting across such a strong case for future timber use on new projects, the tone of writing is obliging rather than contentious. It reads like an instruction manual designed to help, laying foundations for new buildings to be built in this way.

As if to prove this, the most encouraging part of the book is the final chapter, Future, which cites the problems with timber use and how best to solve them, as well as mentioning other schemes the architects are working on. The amount of photographs showing progress is slightly overdone in a book already filled with explanatory diagrams, but illustrates a good point. Together the diagrams and photographs reinforce the text.

The most surprising aspect is probably why this process has been used so sparsely in the past. The probable reason is people’s belief that steel and concrete are more secure than wood. Thompson ventures to suggest otherwise.

It may take more than a 90 page book to convince many of the strength of the architects’ propositions, but the book’s bright green significance leaves a sweet taste in the mouth, and, you would hope, will have a significant consequence on how buildings are designed from now on. Welcome to the 21st century of timber.

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